Nuclear waste petition

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Deborah Powell
Local Journalism Initiative

CHALK RIVER – A new House of Commons e-petition opened for signatures December 11. Initiated by Ole Hendrickson, ecologist and researcher for Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area, and authorized by Pontiac MP Sophie Chatel, the petition calls upon the Government of Canada to direct the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to make no decision on licensing of a radioactive waste disposal facility unless Canada’s obligations under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) are met. The petition also calls for a review by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ major projects involving permanent disposal of the government’s legacy radioactive waste.

The explanation in the petition states that project approvals for nuclear waste disposal facilities could violate UNDRIP Article 29(2): “no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent.” This point had been adamantly made most recently at the CNSC hearing on the proposed Chalk River near surface disposal facility (NSDF) last August when Kebaowek First Nation, Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg and the Mitchikanibikok Inik (the Algonquins of Barriere Lake) gathered in Ottawa to make their presentations.

Regarding the call for an IAEA review, the petition specifically requests ARTEMIS, which is the IAEA’s integrated expert peer review service for radioactive waste and spent fuel management, decommissioning and remediation programmes. CNSC’s own Departmental Plan 2018 included asking for an ARTEMIS review mission to go over the safety cases for Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ proposed major projects but the CNSC never made the request. Instead, there was a request for an Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRSS). The report from this review was released by the IAEA in early 2020 and found that the Canadian national policy or strategy related to radioactive waste management was severely lacking in substance.

Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area and other interested groups have asked for a meeting with MP Chatel as soon as possible. In his request, Hendrickson wrote “As this issue is of high importance and time sensitive, we would like to initiate the process of identifying government officials to meet with to ensure that an ARTEMIS review, which would be to the benefit of all Canadians, takes place” and that an  “independent examination of current proposals for disposal of federal radioactive waste could reveal better alternatives that would address environmental concerns while saving money for taxpayers.”

Chatel’s authorization of the petition does not necessarily mean she agrees with the opinions or request set out in the petition. The petition is open for signatures until January 10, and can be found at: https://www.ourcommons.ca/petitions/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-4676